18 Sep In Our Lane
by Denise Caudill Irons
Being a parent of a child with differing needs, I have experienced unexpected challenges to my perceptions about learning and what constitutes a successful education. One of my daily struggles is to release ingrained viewpoints that I have learned or subconsciously absorbed throughout my life. I grew up striving for straight A’s in order to pursue a college education that would help me procure a good job and become independent. I deeply believed in the old adage that if you work hard, you can achieve anything. I witness my daughter working hard on a daily basis. She shows up, confronts her fears, and never gives up. She may pause for a moment, but she continues to persevere. Because of her chromosome disorder, she is not developing and achieving academically at the pace society deems typical. For the most part, I can stay in our lane. I don’t compare her to her peers, and I assess her progress only against herself. I can appreciate the gains that she makes. I am impressed and over the moon when she accomplishes a goal that didn’t always seem attainable. I can recognize the incredible traits she has that include kindness, joy, and gratitude.
But then, something sneaks out of the darkness and I am overcome with how developmentally and academically behind she is from a typical peer. The differences strike me so forcefully that I am knocked out of our lane. I nearly crumble from the weight of the obvious contrasts. One of the biggest triggers that causes me to look outside of our lane is Back to School night. It is during the faculty presentations that I am reminded of how she does not conform to the academic norms. As the years pass, the gap has become wider and the academic deficiencies more pronounced. For a moment, all the accomplishments, hard work, and what matters most go out the window. And then, I cry. I wallow. I get angry. Followed by the worst part, I become fearful and doubtful. I have learned to allow myself to go through these stages without shame. I take the time that I need to honor these feelings and then release them.
Afterwards, I am able to pull myself up and get right back in our lane. So we are not following a conventional path, and the journey might take longer, and we might not arrive at the same destination; but it’s OUR trail that we are blazing. The best discoveries are made when we go off the beaten path. I am writing this with the hope that by sharing my experiences, I can help other parents feel less isolated, stronger in their convictions, and realize that “you may not always end up where you thought you were going, but you will end up where you are meant to be.” (Quote by Jessica Taylor)
*Denise Caudill Irons is a member of New Hope of Indiana’s Board of Directors and her 11-year-old daughter participates in various therapies at the Payne Road location.